Reinventing Photography Schoolhouse – A journey

Many years ago (1997) I started holding photography seminars in Phoenix AZ. It was just for fun. Got to meet people, learn some things and socialize. Little did I know what it would grow into over time.

A couple of years later it grew into one of the first online forums where students could post their work from seminar images. That in turn grew in a very short time to almost 20,000 users.
Our little Phoenix seminars grew into online webinars and a series of bootcamps held in Phoenix, Austin, Las Vegas, and Toronto.

Rather than just photography in general, Photography Schoolhouse was more about photographers that were making a living at photography. The Professional Photographer.

We followed as photography evolved into digital and watched as the market for professional photography services morphed to accommodate changing consumer demands and tastes.

We kept up as technology kept changing and as social websites first started to appear with Facebook, Instagram and so on. Little did we know at the time how Social Websites would dramatically change the photography consumer. How cell phones would alter consumer needs and how professionals could keep up.

It was a confusing time for pros. Nobody knew where the market was going or how to keep up with it. Pro photographers in droves just gave up. Few were able to keep evolving their business and adapting to change.

Existing photographers would eventually meet their biggest challenge of all - newcomers.

While most existing pros viewed newcomers as rank amateurs who knew nothing, they, and I, mis-interpreted what was really happening.

Newcomers would have the biggest advantage of all. They weren't encumbered by years of old photography wisdom that simply no longer applied. Instead, they could see and accept the new photography landscape for what is was now, not what it used to be.

And while many newcomers came and went, some went on to build great businesses as they kept in step with the modern consumer.

You see, they broke rules!! They didn't mean to. But they kept breaking the "rules of photography" simply because they didn't know them and the fact those rules were no longer relevant.

It was at that time that I stopped teaching as I realized the things I knew simply didn't matter. They were lessons learned in the days of film photography and all I knew was that they were no longer valid. So, I stopped everything. No more seminars, no more webinars or anything until I relearned how a professional photographer could survive in this new world.

I thought it would take me six months to a year to re-learn how to survive as a pro again. I was way off. As the market was fluid, I was no longer able to see an income stream from the things I was doing. Plus, as all of us do, I was getting older.
Age used to mean wisdom. But there were two significant factors that I was facing personally. One, is the physical ability to do the things I used to do, and the other, and far more important, was the perception of the consumer.

The changes in photography were far more than just the evolution of technology and the changing influence of cell phones, social platforms and such, it was about changing tastes. The line between a good photo and a great photo was far more complex. Again, all the rules we used to follow to produce great photos simply didn't apply anymore. It was all about the style. And older photographers were perceived by the younger generation as out-of-touch.

This was a broader change than in just photography. It became a global change of how society perceived age. It's not just that the young are prettier, but young is more in touch with a world that progresses at an ever-increasing rate. It was the same reason why I said earlier that newcomers were not handicapped by old information that was no longer pertinent.

I even did it myself when seeing a doctor. I had a potential issue that turned out to be nothing, but when I saw this Doctor for the first time, I was relieved to see she was a young doctor.

Shortly after this, the Covid issue hit, and photo studios were ordered to close. So, I did - and never re-opened. Photography Schoolhouse stopped at the same time for the same reasons. What could we teach when we didn't have a clear vision of the path to follow.

As we enter 2024, the new technology rapidly changing photography and everything is AI. The business of professional Photography remains a bit uncertain as this technology is chipping away at various segments of the business.

Take business headshots as an example. Today, there are online AI sites where you simply take 12 selfies of yourself and upload them to the site. In a few minutes, it will produce remarkable professional headshots for you to download all for the price of about $29. This is literally a game changer for headshot studios. The market isn't largely aware of this service yet, but over time it will get bigger, not smaller. I've already used AI successfully and incorporated it into my workflow. More on this later.

So now, I have a new vision for Photography Schoolhouse. Simply to focus on the art of photography. The tools no longer matter. All the old photography arguments go out the door. DSLR vs Mirrorless, jpeg vs RAW, full frame vs aps-c, Canon vs Nikon vs Sony, which lens is the sharpest, and so on are now meaningless timewasters. Argue about them if you must but then realize it's a waste of energy as it just doesn't matter.

This will get rid of the gearheads as the hardware no longer matters. I should have realized that when I was 15 years old and won two awards at a photo contest that I shot on a $20 camera that I bought with money from my paper route.

So, join me on today's photography journey where the - Art starts here and the Tools don't matter.


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